Stonehenge at sunset

A brief history of Stonehenge

As we already know, Stonehenge is one of the most important and magnificent of per-historic monuments in the UK, it has attracted visitors over the thousands of years it has been around and in 2011 it attracted over 800,000 Visitors who actually paid to enter into the fenced area, more than 200,000 people viewed Stonehenge for free outside of the fence and more than a million would have driven past and taken a glimpse from the A303. Stonehenge does stand as a timeless monument, and those people that built it all those thousands of years ago should be very proud. The Stonehenge that stands today is the “final stage” and this was completed approx 3,500 years ago – but the building of Stonehenge first started 5000 years ago.

The First Stage

The very first Stonehenge was actually a large Henge (or earthwork), it comprised of a ditch, bank, and then the aubrey holes and these were all built around the time of 3100BC. The aubrey holes are round pits of chalk, measuring approx. one metre deep and wide and with steep sides and very flat bottoms. These then form a circle measuring about 285 feet in diameter. In recent excavations revelations have included cremated human bones being found in some of the chalk filling, but it is believed that the holes were probably made as part of a religious ceremony – but not for the purpose of being graves. After they had got to this stage of the building process it appears Stonehenge was then abandoned, and not revisited for work until over 1000 years later.

The Second Stage – The Arrival of the Bluestones

Onto the second stage and probably what is classed as the most dramatic of stages! This started in 2150BC, when 82 Bluestones taken from the Preseli mountains found in the south west of Wales were then transported to the site that reside in today. But how were these stones transported? Well, it is current thought that these stones (remembering that they weigh approx 4 tonnes each) were transported on bog rollers and sledges to the headwaters of Milford Haven and then lifted onto rafts where they were taken by water along the south coast of Wales. While going down the river Avon and past Frome they were then taken back over land near Warminster in Wiltshire. Once again the final stage of the journey was made by water on the river Wylye to Salisbury then on its way to west Amesbury.

This hugely impressive journey took them almost 240 miles, and once they arrived at their current home the Stones were then setup in the centre to form an incomplete row of two circles.

Third Stage

The third stage of the creation of Stonehenge as we see it today happened about 2000BC, it saw the arrival of the Sarsen Stones – these stones were almost definitely derived from Marlborough Downs in North Wiltshire, this is about 25 miles north of the site of Stonehenge. The biggest stone from the Sarsen Stones weighed over 50 tonnes therefore transporting it by water would have been impossible. These stones could only have been moved using slopes and ropes and modern science shows that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull just ones stone, it would have also required an additional 100 men to lay the huge rollers in front of the stones. Once arriving at Stonehenge the Sarsen Stones were placed in an outer circle with a constant run of lintels. The, inside the circle, five trilithons were placed in a horseshoe like arrangement, and thse remains are what we can still see today.

The Final Stage

Finally, we are at the final stage which took place shortly after 1500BC when the Bluestones were then rearranged in to the Horseshoe and circle we see in todays Stonehenge. It is understood that the original number of stones found in the Bluestone circle was most likely 60, since then these have long been removed or broken up – some do remain but only as stumps found below ground level.

Of course, now you know the history of Stonehenge in brief you should consider checking out one of the many day tours to Stonehenge where you can see the scale of the effort that was required to take place. A ticket to see the Stones will help you really understand the history and you will truly appreciate the magnificent effort it must have taken to move the Stones to where they sit today.

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